Today, I decided, was to be the day when Slow Racecar’s (the almost hurtfully accurate name my four year old has given to my ‘82 Pontiac J2000 racer) engine finally would resemble an actual engine. And barring one gaffe that means I likely have to take the top end back apart, I think I’ve accomplished that.

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Anybody spot what I messed up? Its something missing. And I’m not sure I need them, but I feel I ought to have them.

The carbs and exhaust manifold are just mocked up on there because I wanted to, same with the cam cover, but you get the point. I’m smitten with the way it looks, Pontiac Blue was 100% the right choice for the block...black would have been fine but the blue makes the whole thing look special to me.

A fun part of this was figuring out how to mount the cam box. So this is a SOHC engine, you can see the cam resides in a box atop the head. Here’s the top side of the head and rockers, by the way:

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See the little part on the top of the spring that the rocker arm sits in? I could initially only find seven of them in the bag of rocker parts I had. I spent half an hour on Google trying to find out what they were called, dug through all of my boxes of parts, and found the dumb little thing sitting there in the last box I had to look in. As my dad is fond of saying, I must be living right. But I digress.

Because the cam is off, the valves are all closed. When you sit the cam box on top of the head with the rockers in place, it doesn’t sit flush because the cam wants to open some valves. Short of compressing the springs somehow, the only way I could think to do it was to use the 10 head bolts that also go through the cam box to compress the valves using the cam itself. I was pleased to see it worked out fine, I just went a little at a time and it came down nice and easy. Once it was down, the head bolts wanted 18 ft lbs plus 180 degrees in three rounds of 60 degrees.

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Once the head was installed, there was no chance I was going to leave it like that without hanging the header and carbs off it just to see how it looks. And it looks so sexy, just like I hoped it would.

Another good sign was when turning the motor over. It turned freely by hand before the head was on, and with the head installed but no timing belt, it turned freely...for 180 degrees until the piston (number three, I think) touched a valve and came to a dead stop. I didn’t think this was an interference engine, but I suppose flat top pistons, a higher lift cam, and taking .025 off the block may have contributed to that because its an interference motor now. When I installed the timing belt, which is old and will be replaced, the engine turned freely through 720 degrees with no issues.

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So whats next? Well, I have some final buttoning up to do on the engine, I have to install the thermostat housing and other cooling stuff. I have to check out the distributor and get that installed, the intake manifold is going to need some work to allow me to fit the alternator but it seems doable. I want to paint the header and put header wrap on it, because I think that would look appropriately old school. And I’ve been spending so much time with the motor lately, I’ve practically forgotten there’s a whole car that’ll need my attention as well.

But even nextier than all that...another project? A year ago I would have said I was an idiot to even get into one project, but I think I’ve finally figured out how I can get work done in the little amount of time I have available, so there’s this:

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My best friend built this Cutlass a number of years ago with a 455, and he’s been talking about pulling that motor and doing something else with it forever. Last month he finally did it, so the Cutty is just sitting...and I feel very strongly that if its going to sit, it should have a J2000 friend to sit with.

It has an 8 point cage, Autometer gauges, built TH400, factory aluminum hood, Grand National rear end with Richmond 390 gears and a spool...whole bunch of other stuff too, I think it may be tubbed. He and I both had the same thought: build a turbo kit for a 5.3 LS, go junkyard dumpster diving for like four of the things, and then just run them until they let go.

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I like how diametrically opposed the two cars are. One RWD drag car with zero interest in turning, one FWD road racer that’ll probably run 15s in the 1/4. Plus the Cutlass was registered in RI, so I can street drive that one. Hell, I could probably put a hitch on it and pull the J2000 with it.

Anyway, that’ll be happening in a few months...he’s in no rush to sell the car, so he’s fine sitting on it until I’ve got a place for it. I’ll have the J2000 running and driving before that gets here though, for sure.

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Thanks for reading if you got this far, sorry for the long read.

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